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Paris 2024 Olympic Games: Your guide to the NZ sailing team

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With the Paris Olympic Games now only a few weeks away, New Zealand’s top sailors are in the final stages of preparation for what promises to be the pinnacle of their careers.

For the 12-strong squad, this has meant spending as much time as possible on the water in Marseille, where the sailing competition will be held from July 28 to August 8.

Yachting New Zealand’s high performance director, Ian Stewart, recently spent a fortnight in Marseille, working with the sailing squad and coaches and ensuring the team base is fit for purpose.

“A big focus at this late stage of the cycle is understanding the racecourses in Marseille and going fast in the given conditions. The entire squad has had training blocks in Marseille, as well as practice regattas competing in Olympic class fields," Stewart says.

"It’s also been a chance to connect individually with sailors and coaches.”

Roughly half of New Zealand’s wider Olympic team will be based in the Olympic Village, with several sports, including sailing, stationed in satellite locations across France and even as far afield as Tahiti, where the surfing events will occur.

“Being away from the Olympic Village in Paris has its advantages and disadvantages, but we are trying to ensure the athletes have the full Games experience even though they are 700 km away from Paris,” Stewart explains.


Yachting New Zealand's high performance director Ian Stewart. Photos / Sailing Energy

New Zealand is fielding its largest sailing squad since 2012, competing in nine of the 10 Olympic classes this year.

Eight of the team will be making their Games debuts, while only Micah Wilkinson, Erica Dawson, and Molly Meech competed in Tokyo three years ago.

Jo Aleh, a veteran of three previous Olympics, will be sailing with Meech in the 49erFX after winning gold and silver with Polly Powrie in the women’s 470 in 2012 and 2016.

There will be a big focus on the two first-time Olympic sailing disciplines: the windfoil (iQFOiL) and kitefoil.

Talented young sailors Veerle ten Have and Josh Armit will be competing in the former, marking the country’s return to Olympic windsurfing for the first time since JP Tobin finished seventh in the non-foiling RS:X 12 years ago.

Justina Kitchen and Lukas Walton-Keim have both overcome serious injuries to make it onto the start line in the men’s and women’s kitefoil events.

ILCA 7 star Tom Saunders, a former class world champion, will make his Games debut after campaigning for more than a decade. He secured his spot over compatriot George Gautrey, who won bronze at last year’s sailing world championships.

Greta Pilkington is also set to make history as the first Kiwi to compete in the ILCA 6 class since Sara Winther in 2012.

Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie, one of New Zealand’s most consistent crews over the past 18 months, will also debut in Marseille. They gained selection after a close-fought affair with training partners Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn.

Reflecting on the team’s preparations, Stewart says: “You would always welcome more time, but everyone has worked incredibly hard to get to this point. The shortened cycle has been an adjustment, as it's only been three years back in international competition since Tokyo."

The team has been working with a range of experts to prepare for the Games, including renowned mental skills coach Dr Ceri Evans on performing under pressure.

“We are excited about the potential in this young squad and we want them to embrace the pressure and enjoy it; to step up and really take on the challenge."

Notably absent from the 2024 squad are double Olympic medallists in the 49er Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who are focusing on defending the America's Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand in Barcelona in September.

“Pete and Blair are world-class sailors, and their absence, along with other experienced athletes like Sam Meech and Josh Junior, naturally leaves a void. But at the same time, it has created an opportunity for our next generation of Olympic sailors,” Stewart says.

“This is their chance to show everyone what they’ve got.”

The NZ team

ILCA 6: Greta Pilkington
ILCA 7: Tom Saunders
49erFX: Jo Aleh and Molly Meech
49er: Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie
Nacra 17: Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson
Windoil (women): Veerle ten Have
Windfoil (men): Josh Armit
Kitefoil (women): Justina Kitchen
Kitefoil (men): Lukas Walton-Keim

Click here for a complete bio of every sailor.

The schedule*

Sunday, July 28
Windfoil (women): Race 1-4
Windfoil (men): Race 1-4
49erFX: Race 1-3
49er: Race 1-3

Monday, July 29
49erFX: Race 4-6
49er: Race 4-6
Windfoil (women): Race 5-8
Windfoil (men): Race 5-8

Tuesday, July 30
Windfoil (women): Race 9-12
Windfoil (men): Race 9-12
49erFX: Race 7-9
49er: Race 7-9

Wednesday, July 31
49erFX: Race 10-12
49er: Race 10-12
Windfoil (men): Race 13-16
Windfoil (women): Race 13-16

Thursday, August 1
49er: Medal race
49erFX: Medal race
ILCA 7: Race 1-2
ILCA 6: Race 1-2
Windfoil (women): Race 17-20
Windfoil (men): Race 17-20

Friday, August 2 
Windfoil (women): Quarterfinal, semifinal, final
Windfoil (men): Quarterfinal, semifinal, final
ILCA 6: Race 3-4
ILCA 7: Race 3-4

Saturday, August 3
ILCA 7: Race 5-6
ILCA 6: Race 5-6
Nacra 17: Race 1-3

Sunday, August 4
Nacra 17: Race 4-6
ILCA 7: Race 7-8
ILCA 6: Race 7-8
Kitefoil (men): Race 1-4
Kitefoil (women): Race 1-4

Monday, August 5
Kitefoil (men): Race 5-8
Kitefoil (women): Race 5-8
Nacra 17: Race 7-9

Tuesday, August 6
ILCA 6: Medal race
ILCA 7: Medal race
Kitefoil (men): Race 9-12
Kitefoil (women): Race 9-12
Nacra 17: Race 10-12

Wednesday, August 7
Nacra 17: Medal race
Kitefoil (women): Race 13-16
Kitefoil (men): Race 13-16

Thursday, August 8
Kitefoil (men): Semifinals, final
Kitefoil (women): Semifinals, final
*From 10pm daily (NZ time)